LONDON: Darwin Nunez is on his way to Liverpool. The Uruguayan forward left his Uruguay national team training camp on Saturday to fly back to Europe for a medical and complete his move from Benfica to Anfield.
Nunez will be the first major signing for the Reds by Julian Ward. Liverpool’s newly-promoted director of football spent the weekend in Lisbon haggling over the details of the fee.
Benfica wanted an immediate €75m but Liverpool have offered to pay in two instalments with the possibility of bonuses for 60 appearances and trophies which would take the deal to a potential maximum €100m. Benfica must pay Almeria a cut of 20pc above the €25m they paid the Spanish club two years ago.
Nunez impressed Liverpool when scoring both home and away against them in the quarter-finals of the Champions League this past season. He made his name initially in Uruguay with Penarol, and has agreed a six-year contract. Manchester United had also been interested in Nunez but could not offer him Champions League football.
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, asked about Nunez’s qualities after the Champions League ties, said: “He’s a bit similar to Erling Haaland – very direct, quick, tall, strong. It’s difficult to play against him.”
The Kop will be happy to welcome Nunez. Liverpool’s January signing from Portuguese football, left winger Luis Diaz from Porto, had proved impressive and popular. Previously Nunez’s fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez, scored 82 goals in all competitions in three exciting years at Anfield. Suarez had recommended Nunez to Barcelona, in vain.
The 22-year-old scored 34 goals in 41 club appearances in all competitions last season including six headers. Liverpool consider him a direct replacement for Sadio Mane who is expected to leave for FC Bayern sooner or later. Manager Jurgen Klopp has high expectations. Liverpool want Nunez not only to fill the Mane gap but provide both the height and attacking energy to ease the pressure for goals on Mo Salah.
The Egyptian scored 31 goals in all competitions this past season but he is 30 on Wednesday and uncertainty surrounds his long-term future. Salah’s Anfield contract expires next year.
Mane will not be the only departure this summer. Liverpool are also selling Japan forward Takumi Minamino.